Tag: Servant Leadership
How do each of you begin a new year? A valued colleague of mine, Erin Schreyer, suggests that you pick a “word of the year” that sets a tone and keeps you focused. This is great advice, and if I wasn’t so long-winded (working on it…), I’d be able to do just that. Instead, I’ve chosen four:
Live what you love.
Why? Because we only get one chance at this life thing. In 2014 (and beyond), I want to stay focused on spending my time – both personally and professionally – on the things I love. I’m thinking this might sound like a desirable feat to some of you as well, so let’s dig in.
A Personal Perspective
2014 will be a year of change for me as I officially “open shop” on my organizational development consulting practice – Core. I’m excited for the opportunities this new venture will bring to my life. It’s going to help me live what I love. How?
I LOVE… enhancing employees’ workplace experience and helping organizations thrive through engaging and empowering people practices. This is my passion, hands down. I am now able to experience a greater breadth of projects and interactions outside of just one company. I’m blessed to be kicking off my 1st quarter in business with three outstanding clients – two former employers who are near and dear, and one new partner who I’m excited to learn more about.
I LOVE…my family. As an independent consultant, outside of my client obligations, my time is mine. My children need their parents to be strong, positive, and active forces in their lives. I need the flexibility to be there for them when they need me.
I LOVE…giving back to the profession that I get so much fulfillment from. I serve on the boards of Authentic Leadership Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Human Resources Association (GCHRA). I’m looking forward to dedicating more focused attention to both groups, whose missions I very much believe in.
I LOVE…spending time with students. I’m a part-time Adjunct Instructor at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus. It’s an outlet for me. I learn and grow so much from just 3 hours each week with my students who are achieving dreams through education.
I LOVE…healthy living. I value a healthy lifestyle – both physically and mentally – so that I can bring my whole self to everything listed above. This new career path will allow me to eat healthier meals at home and squeeze in my runs during random “break points” during the day…no one will know if I sit back down at my desk full of sweat! 🙂
To be able to balance all of the things I love the most, independent consulting was the right track for me to pursue. I realize, however, that venturing off on your own is not for everyone. So lately I’ve been thinking about how others, within a more traditional organization, can live what they love and how managers can help their employees get there. Below are some tips I hope you find helpful.
How can you live what you love in 2014?
Identify what you love.
You might have some self-exploration to do. Start drafting a list. What do you love and how do you want to spend your time? This might be harder than it sounds.
Talk to people about it.
Once you figure it out, share it with the world! The more you talk about it, the more you’ll encourage yourself to spend your time doing those things – even if it means enduring uncomfortable change to get there. Seek out mentors, learn from their experience and knowledge, and have them hold you accountable.
Take control of your destiny.
Sure, some things are out of your control, but the ball is largely in your hands. What do YOU (not anyone else!) need to do to be able to live what you love? Build a plan, take ownership of it, and execute.
This is where it can start to get uncomfortable because it may require that dreaded 6 letter word – CHANGE. It could mean deciding to move on from your current position or employer. It could mean asking your boss for an international assignment. It could mean going into work an hour earlier so that you can be home for family dinners.
A long-time mentor of mine once told me, “big things don’t happen with timid actions.” What bold actions do you need to take in 2014 to live what you love?
How can managers help their team members live what they love?
- Listen. Do you know what your team loves – both personally and professionally? If not, get to know them. Listen to both their verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Facilitate opportunities. Even though I’m a firm believer that you need to create your own destiny, it certainly never hurts when someone lends a helping hand. As a leader, what opportunities can you create for your team to help them live what they love? Maybe you can connect them to people or other resources they might not be aware of. Or maybe you could offer job shadowing, job rotations, or special project assignments.
- Ask what you can do to help your team achieve their goals. Let’s say one of your team members has a passion for cycling. How powerful would it be if you said to him, “Jason, I know it’s one of your goals this year to ride more (you know this because you did #1!). What can I do to help you achieve this goal?”
- Be flexible and open-minded. If you do #3, be prepared for the response. Jason might ask to arrive later in the mornings once the sun comes up so that he can ride his bike to work. He might ask if you would support his request to the facilities team to add a bike rack to the parking lot. Being flexible and open-minded to your team’s needs is a way to help them live the lives they love.
Don’t Forget About Mindsets
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
The first sentence is very important. Not only could you strive to fill your time with the things you love; it’s equally important to develop a positive mindset to love the life you’re living…even if you’re not doing what you love all the time. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to spend 100% of our time doing things we love (I don’t care much for mopping floors – you?). If you adopt an optimistic mindset though, it’s amazing what you might find yourself loving.
This past weekend I ran 13.1 miles through the beautiful Fort Harrison State Park in the Indianapolis Marathon & Half Marathon. I was able to complete my third half-marathon, watch a good friend accomplish her first full marathon, and cheer my husband on in the last .2 of his sixth 26.2 journey. It was an amazing weekend full of friends, family, wellness, and inspiration.
One of the things that stood out to me the most from the weekend was not the beautiful fall-colored trees, or the runner dressed as Superman, or that laboring hill at mile 11. Nope, it was a woman who I encountered near the portalets. Yep, you read that right – my most memorable moment of the entire weekend happened near the porta potties! But this wasn’t just any woman, she was a
What is servant leadership?
I was lucky to be introduced to the philosophy of servant leadership relatively early in my career by one of my valued mentors. Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying, and trying my best to practice, this approach to leadership.
As described on the Robert K. Greenleaf’s Center for Servant Leadership website, “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” This phrase was first officially coined by Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, published in 1970. In this book, Greenleaf describes this philosophy as follows:
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
Okay…Back to the Woman at the Portalets
The morning of the race was cold and rainy. As always, there were loooong lines at the 30 or so portalets set up right by the start line. Hundreds of runners lined up in the pouring rain, with each breath looking like little puffs of smoke in the foggy, gray early morning hours.
About 25 people-deep, there I stood. All of a sudden I felt the rain stop. I looked up, and I had an umbrella over my head. I heard a voice say, “You looked like you could use this.” There behind me was a woman in her 40s or 50s with a huge smile on her face and an over-sized golf umbrella in her hand. She was there with her daughter, who was running the marathon that morning. After covering me for a few minutes, she then jumped over to the line next to me where a runner in her 60s or 70s stood, in shorts, shivering in the cold waiting in line. She stood and covered her.
I finally made it through the line and was in a rush to get to the start, as the horn had already blown and the runners were off. But wait – I only had one glove. What happened to my other glove??? I can’t run in this weather without gloves – I will freeze! I hear another voice behind me, “I have it…I have it!” I turned around and saw that woman again. She had my glove in her hand. She saw me drop it in the grass as I was running towards the race. “Here you go honey – good luck!”
Key Principles of Servant Leadership
There are 10 key principles of servant leadership. I am not going to touch on each one, but I wanted to share three of them that this woman exuded on that cold, rainy race morning.
1. Awareness: Servant leaders are very self-aware, but also keenly aware of the surrounding environment and the needs of those around them. As many of the runners stood in that rainy portalet line, heads down, or looking straight forward visualizing their upcoming individual performances that day, this woman was focused on the people around her and their needs. Servant leaders are observant and positively act on those outwardly-focused observations.
2. Commitment to the Growth of People: Servant leaders are committed to helping the people around them grow – personally, professionally, spiritually. One way they can do this is by providing the resources and/or tools needed for success – like the umbrella…and the glove. I would have never finished that race without that glove. I might not have even ever started.
3. Building Community: Servant leaders build a sense of community amongst teams, organizations, or any group they’re a part of. That woman helped bring the running community together that morning by being a positively contagious energy during somewhat intimidating race day conditions. It was because of her that complete strangers in my line began interacting, laughing, and connecting.
I’m not sure who that woman was or if she’ll maybe stumble upon this post, but I want to say THANK YOU for your servant leadership that morning. I will do my best to model your behavior in my everyday life. These characteristics are directly applicable in any setting, so let’s all commit to serving others FIRST and leading SECOND – at home, at work, and in our communities.